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Religious Leaders Endorse Anti-Pornography Legislation

Public Campaign Funding Questioned

McClintock Criticizes Calderon's DC Affairs

Schering-Plough To Pay Record $500M

NPP Input In Unity, Consensus Committee Rejected

200 Reservists Leave For Middle East

Mercado: Don’t Engage Bush On Status

Priest Removed From Duties

Religious Leaders Endorse Legislative Efforts Against Pornography

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

May 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002
WOW News. All rights reserved.  

The Puerto Rico Pentecostal Fraternity endorsed Senate Vice President Velda Gonzalez’s initiative on Monday to censure pornography in rap music videos and lyrics.

"It seems high-ranking members of the administration are finally hearing the mandate of the people. This is a society of high moral standards," Fraternity President Angel Marcial said.

Marcial and a dozen ministers spoke in favor of the bill during a press conference held Monday morning in front of the Capitol.

The leader, whose organization represents some 20 councils and 2,300 churches on the island, said that just as they have criticized legislation they considered harmful to society, they felt the need to express their satisfaction with the vice president’s initiative.

Last week, Gonzalez presented a series of measures to regulate pornography displayed in videos. She had requested Department of Consumer Affairs create an office to monitor obscenity and pornography in the media. The office would provide guidance to parents on what children could see and would protect children from pornography on the Internet.

The second measure calls for all importers and distributors of television sets manufactured after Jan. 1, 2003 to place a signal blocker device to enable parents to block objectionable TV programs.

Another measure requires all movie theaters and video stores to display a bilingual rating label that would permit consumers to know the films’ content.

The senator also filed a bill to create a citizens’ bill of rights on obscenity and pornography that would serve as a guide for those concerned with profanity, promiscuity, and violence in media and entertainment.

Marcial and the group of religious leaders also endorsed House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo’s decision not to eliminate sodomy as a crime from the Commonwealth penal code, which is currently under revision.

Public Campaign Funding Questioned By Experts

May 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - Experts agreed that the Legislature must meticulously analyze the public funds to be granted to political parties for their campaigns, so that excess money would not be spent.

"If $100 million is granted, $100 million will be spent," said Mario Negron Portillo, director of the Public Administration School of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), during a round table held by the House of Representatives, to evaluate the Electoral Reform.

Similarly, former UPR Social Sciences School Dean Jose Mendez affirmed that Puerto Ricans does not want politicians to continue to spend public funds. What they want is answers regarding the corruption cases committed by high-ranking officials.

Negron Portillo also suggested that $4 million should be granted to each party, instead of $7 million, because of the state of the budget.

McClintock Criticizes Calderon's Affairs In Washington

May 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - New Progressive Party (NPP) Senate Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock said on Sunday that Gov. Sila Calderon's priorities in Washington aren't in the best interest of island residents and that they have already started to harm Puerto Rico.

"First of all, many Pentagon and Capitol Hill officials have confirmed that neither the governor nor the resident commissioner have lifted a finger to prevent Puerto Rico from losing the economic benefits derived from having the Army South stationed in Fort Buchanan," McClintock said during a press conference.

He added that the only elected officials who have visited Washington to oppose the transfer of the Army South from the island have been NPP mayors Hector O'Neill and Ramon Luis Rivera, Jr, of Guaynabo and Bayamon, respectively.

On the other hand, the legislator criticized Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila again for not residing in Washington.

"The physical absence of the resident commissioner is starting to be felt, when members of the committees to which he belongs still don't know him after one and a half years in Congress," McClintock said.

McClintock also said the situation has cost Puerto Rico residents the chance to benefit from significant increases in federal programs, such as the Nutritional Assistance Program.

Schering-Plough To Pay Record $500M

May 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Drug maker Schering-Plough said Friday it will pay the federal government a record fine of at least $500 million because of quality-control violations at its New Jersey and Puerto Rico plants.

The Food and Drug Administration said it was the biggest fine in the agency's history. It said FDA inspectors had found significant, repeated and widespread violations at four plants during inspections dating to 1998.

The four plants covered by the consent decree -- in Kenilworth and Union, N.J., and in Manati and Las Piedras, Puerto Rico -- will continue making prescription drugs, including Claritin and the allergy medicine Clarinex, asthma inhalers, skin products and the hepatitis drug Rebetol.

Under the agreement the company signed Thursday, the plants will operate under tighter FDA scrutiny, with extra reviews and reports required, through the end of 2005 -- an unusually long period.

In a statement, the FDA said the fine and consent decree follow 13 inspections at the four plants since 1998, during which FDA inspectors found ``significant violations'' of good manufacturing standards ``related to facilities, manufacturing, quality assurance, equipment, laboratories and packaging and labeling.''

``The defendants have had a history of failing to comply with (manufacturing standards) at these plants, which produce about 90 percent of the firm's drug products,'' the FDA said. ``The decree affects about 125 different prescription and over-the-counter drugs produced at the Puerto Rico and New Jersey facilities.''

Meanwhile, Schering-Plough disclosed Wednesday that the FDA's criminal investigation office in Puerto Rico is investigating the company. Schering-Plough spokesman Bob Consalvo said the company does not know the focus of the investigation or any details.

NPP Input In Unity, Consensus Committee Rejected

May 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – Two New Progressive Party (NPP) leaders rejected the proposal of their president, Carlos Pesquera, to evaluate the possible participation of the collectivity in the Unity and Consensus Committee proposed by Gov. Sila Calderon.

Carlos Romero Barcelo and NPP Vice President Jorge Santini defended the posture agreed by the NPP during the delegate assembly last year, where a motion from former House Speaker Edison Misla Aldarondo was approved that establishes that party leaders should abstain from participating in "any process called by colonial or separatist sectors to deal with the political status issue."

"The party can’t be going back and forth," Romero Barcelo said in published reports.

Santini said he does not know the reasons Pesquera has to submit the proposal this week.

200 Reservists Leave For Middle East

May 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) - Some 200 reservists from the Puerto Rico National Guard left Friday for the United States and then will travel to the Middle East as part of the U.S. military campaign in this zone.

Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado bid the Puerto Rican reservists farewell Thursday at an activity held at Camp Santiago in Salinas, according to a press release.

"The government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is proud of the distinguished sons and daughters of our homeland who will go abroad Friday," the official said.

The group comprises Company B and Company C from the 296th Battalion Infantry of the National Guard, headquartered in Cabo Rojo and Sabana Grande, respectively.

The units are specialists in security, reconnaissance, patrol, and vigilance, Mercado said.

The reservists left Friday for the United States, where they will be trained prior to leaving for the Middle East.

Mercado: Not Good Idea To Engage Bush In Controversy

May 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

SAN JUAN (AP) – Ponce Mayor Rafael Cordero Santiago was warned Friday that entering into a controversy with President George W. Bush is not the suitable mechanism.

"We have to first define what we want, come to an agreement, and raise it without lifting passions or confusing the island," said Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado while responding to the Ponce mayor’s statements contained in a letter the municipal executive sent to Bush.

In the letter, Cordero Santiago indicated that Puerto Rico cannot politically nor economically develop while it is a U.S. colony.

Cordero Santiago also tells Bush that the United States cannot talk about civil rights when it "is violating" daily the rights of Vieques residents.

In reaction to the Ponce mayor’s position, the secretary of State rejected Cordero Santiago’s argument about the colonial status of the political relationship the United States has with Puerto Rico.

"The significant and undeniable truth is that the Commonwealth has been an instrument of service for the Puerto Rican people over the past 50 years, which has the capacity to grow and not necessarily moving to the extremes or becoming something else," the secretary of State said in a press release.

Mercado warned Cordero Santiago that Puerto Ricans have different visions on the status issue and its growth.

"Tackling the issue in a critical and confrontational tone can generate divisive reactions and futile discussions, which does not suit Puerto Rico," warned the secretary of State, who said he considers the Ponce mayor his friend.

Priest Removed From Duties Due To Sexual Harassment

May 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002
The Associated Press. All rights reserved.  

CAGUAS (AP) – Caguas Bishop Ruben Gonzalez announced Friday that Priest Edwin Santana has been discharged as the official of the regional rectory, as of May 15.

Santana was also dismissed as rector of the Our Lady of Carmen Sanctuary in San Lorenzo, effective May 19.

Santana was charged with workplace sexual harassment against a child who he allegedly had a relationship with for three years.

"This decision was made despite the fact that the priest has maintained his innocence of the charges, but the present situation has publicly discredited him and affected the fine reputation he has enjoyed as an official," the monsignor ruled in a press conference.

The bishop assured that the clergyman would not be able to work in any other diocese "until he completes time off for professional and spiritual attention."

At the core of this accusation, the Roman Catholic Church decided to negotiate the case under the condition that the priest be removed from his duties within the church, which hadn’t happened until this year.

In exchange, the child would keep this agreement secret.

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